VW Group brings in Apple engineer to head up digital strategy

Volkswagen has made a significant step towards its promise of focusing on electric vehicles with the appointment of Johann Jungwirth as Head of Digitalisation Strategy. The news that the VW Group has set up a new Digitalisation Strategy Department is noteworthy enough in itself, but the fact that the German manufacturer has poached Jungwirth from Apple makes the announcement all the more significant.

Having announced last month that the VW Group will dramatically expand its electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid model line-up in the wake of the VW emissions scandal, it is becoming clear that the firm is taking its previous statement very seriously. Jungworth proves quite the feather in its cap as he has an excellent C.V. including expertise in both electric drivetrains and automated driving systems.

Volkswagen's term of Digitalisation Strategy is a bit of a catch all and can be interpreted to include all manner of development ideas. Although his immediate focus might not be the electric drivetrain side of things, as head of the department, he will oversee its development for sure. Volkswagen will have a number of engineers refining and developing new ideas for its current electric powertrain already and they will likely come under the Digitalisation Strategy banner.

Having started out with Mercedes Benz's parent company Daimler, Jungworth worked his way up the ranks until he became President and CEO of Mercedes Benz Research and Development North America. He led developments in areas such as connected cars, user interface, autonomous driving, powertrains and eDrive (electric powertrain) and advanced exterior design.

Last year Apple hired him as Director of Mac Systems Engineering which, considering that his previous 17 years in employment had been with Daimler, would intimate that he has been working on the much rumoured Apple car development - a project not confirmed but reported to be called Titan.

The varied fields of research make for an exciting prospect with the many different brands within the VW Group that Jungworth has to work with. Mercedes is well respected as an innovator in a number of areas of the automotive sector, including powertrains, user interface and technology, and active aerodynamics. With all sorts of brands for Jungworth to play with, expect mass-market electric vehicles from the likes of VW and Audi to rapidly incorporate efficient technologies developed on models from Bentley, Bugatti and Porsche.

Jungwirth, user interface and EV charging

Immediate areas of focus for Jungworth (above) are wireless software upgrades and systems confirming that VW is working on similar systems to that of Tesla. The idea of regularly upgrading your car's software is one that Tesla brought in from a technology company's way of thinking but it seems that VW at least is getting on board too.

Linked to that will be user interface changes which should make driving easier for owners and is clearly planned to be updated over time, while the electrification of the VW Group product line-up will demand increasing levels support, input and development lead from Jungworth's department.

Interestingly, Volkswagen's announcement makes it clear that Jungworth reports directly to Dr Matthias Müller, VW Group CEO, which puts him very high up the ladder indeed and gives him the same level of ranking as a head of any of the 12 manufacturers he will have a hand in helping.

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:12th Nov 2015

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